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Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making Offers Jewish Perspective on Ethical and Religious Dilemmas

New Book by Rabbi Jason Weiner, Director of Spiritual Care at Cedars-Sinai, Offers Insights Drawn From Experience as Well as Authoritative Religious and Academic Texts

Every day in hospitals across the country, patients, family members and healthcare professionals confront ethical and religious dilemmas about risky medical procedures, end-of-life care and other weighty issues. Now Rabbi Jason Weiner, BCC, the senior rabbi and director of the Cedars-Sinai Spiritual Care Department, has written a book to guide those wrestling with health-related questions.

In the Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making, Weiner taps Jewish law to address the complexities arising from medical issues in contemporary society. He offers real-world wisdom grounded in rabbinic authority and first-person experience at one of the country's leading academic medical centers, showing how the framework provided by Jewish law remains a relevant guide for making the most difficult decisions in a rapidly changing medical environment.

The book, written in accessible, user-friendly language and intended to provide clear and concise direction, covers a gamut of issues—including surrogacy, palliative care and end-of-life decision-making.

"When I first became a chaplain in a major medical center over 10 years ago, I needed clear and practical guidance that was both grounded in Jewish law and had a sensitive understanding of contemporary medicine," Weiner said. "When I couldn't find anything, I began keeping notes of the approaches I was learning and developing. As I shared them with other chaplains, rabbis, doctors and ethicists in need, we realized we could have a very helpful book to share with the public."

The book's six chapters—"Facilitating Shared Decision-Making," "How Much Treatment?" "Prayer," "At the End of Life," "After Death" and "Reproductive Questions"—sensitively acknowledge the uncertainty that often surrounds medical decision-making. Weiner cites numerous authoritative sources, from academia as well as the Talmud and other rabbinic texts.

The work also is informed by Weiner's work in hospital rooms with patients, families, physicians, nurses, social workers and others who work in patient care.

At Cedars-Sinai, Weiner is responsible for the chaplaincy program and all aspects of spiritual care. He has earned two rabbinic ordinations, as well as a master's degree in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University (Chicago), where he is completing a doctorate in clinical bioethics. Weiner also is a member of the Cedars-Sinai End of Life Committee, Organ Donor Council and Bioethics Committee. He speaks nationally on topics related to Jewish medical ethics, pastoral care, health and wellness.

His previous book, Guide to Observance of Jewish Law in a Hospital, offers direction for patients observing traditional Jewish law while undergoing medical treatment. That book was published in 2014.

Weiner said his intention with both books is to provide a roadmap for many questions that defy quick or simple answers.

"Preserving life and preserving tradition are important components of Judaism," Weiner said. "But there can be times when they appear to be in conflict. I wrote this new book to help people navigate what can be a particularly challenging experience."